XOXperts Review & Excerpt | Deep Dark by Laura Griffin

Title: Deep Dark
Series: Tracers, #10
Author: Laura Griffin
Release Date: May 24, 2016
Genre: Fiction | Thriller | Suspense
Pages: 368
Format: Mass market paperback
Publisher: Pocket Star
Source: XOXO After Dark

The moment detective Reed Novak steps onto the crime scene, he knows the case is going to rock his world. A beautiful young woman murdered at home. No sign of forced entry. No motive. She’s obviously not the killer’s first victim, and Reed’s instincts tell him she won’t be his last. Reed’s first clue comes via a mysterious text that links to a dating profile, but even more intriguing than the clue is the person who sent it.

As a white-hat hacker in the Delphi Center’s cyber investigation unit, Laney Knox sneaks into some of the deepest, darkest corners of the Internet looking for predators. Laney would prefer to stay away from Austin PD’s most recent murder case, but she can’t ignore the chilling similarities between that crime and her own brutal attack years ago. Laney offers to help the sexy lead detective, but he wants more from her than just a promising tip—Reed wants her trust. Laney resists, but as their relationship deepens she’s tempted to reveal the closely guarded secrets that could make her a key witness…or the killer’s next victim.

Laney Knox blinked into the darkness and listened. Something... no.
She closed her eyes and slid deeper into the warm sheets, dismissing the sound. Probably her neighbor’s cat on the patio again.
Her eyes flew open. It wasn’t the sound but the light that had her attention now. Or lack of light. She gazed at the bedroom window, but didn’t see a band of white seeping through the gap between the shade and the wall.

She stared into the void, trying to shake off the grogginess. The outdoor lightbulb was new--her landlord had changed it yesterday. Had he botched the job? She should have done it herself, but her shoestring budget didn’t cover LED lights. It barely covered ramen noodles and Red Bull.
Laney looked around the pitch-black room. She wasn’t afraid of the dark, never had been. Roaches terrified her. And block parties. But darkness had always been no big deal.

Except this darkness was all wrong.
How many software developers does it take to change a lightbulb? None, it’s a hardware problem.
She strained her ears and listened for whatever sound had awakened her, but she heard nothing. She saw nothing. All her senses could discern was a slight chill against her skin and the lingering scent of the kung pao chicken she’d had for dinner. But something seemed off. As the seconds ticked by, a feeling of dread settled over her.
She bolted upright. The noise was soft but unmistakable. Someone was inside her house.
Her heart skittered. Her thoughts zinged in a thousand directions. She lived in an old bungalow, more dilapidated than charming, and her bedroom was at the back, a virtual dead end. She glanced at her windows. She’d reinforced the original latches with screw locks to deter burglars--which had seemed like a good idea at the time. But now she felt trapped. She reached over and groped around on the nightstand for her phone.

Crap crap crap. It was charging in the kitchen.
Her blood turned icy as stark reality sank in. She had no phone, no weapon, no exit route. And someone was inside.
Should she hide in the closet? Or try to slip past him somehow, maybe if he stepped into her room? It would never work, but—
A burst of panic made the decision for her and she was across the room in a flash. She scurried behind the door and flattened herself against the wall. Her breath came in shallow gasps. Her heart pounded wildly as she felt more than heard him creeping closer.
That’s what he was doing. Creeping. He was easing down the hallway with quiet, deliberate steps while she cowered behind the door, quivering and naked except for her oversized Florence and the Machine T-shirt. Sweat sprang up on the back of her neck and her chest tightened.
Who the hell was he? What did he want? She had no cash, no jewelry, just a few thousand dollars’ worth of hardware sitting on her desk. Maybe she could slip out while he stole it.
Yeah, right. Her ancient hatchback in the driveway was a neon sign announcing that whoever lived here was not only dead broke, but obviously home. This intruder was no burglar--he was here for her.
Laney’s pulse sprinted. Her hands formed useless little fists at her sides, and she was overwhelmed with the absurd notion that she should have followed through on that kickboxing class.
She forced a breath into her lungs and tried to think.
She had to think her way out of this because she was five-three, one-hundred-ten pounds, and weaponless. She didn’t stand much chance against even an average-size man and if he was armed, forget it.
The air moved. Laney’s throat went dry. She stayed perfectly still and felt a faint shifting of molecules on the other side of the door. Then a soft sound, barely a whisper, as the door drifted open.
She held her breath. Her heart hammered. Everything was black, but gradually there was a hole in the blackness--a tall, man-shaped hole--and she stood paralyzed with disbelief as the shape eased into her bedroom and crept toward her bed. She watched it, rooted in place, waiting... waiting... waiting.
She bolted.
Her feet slapped against the wood floor as she raced down the hallway. Air swooshed behind her. A scream tore from her throat, then became a shrill yelp as he grabbed her hair and slammed her against the wall.
A stunning blow knocked her to the floor. Stars burst behind her eyes as her cheek hit wood. She scrambled to her feet. She made a frantic dash and tripped over the coffee table, sending glasses and dishes flying as she crashed to her knees.
He flipped her onto her back and then he was on her, pinning her with his massive weight as something sharp cut into her shoulder blade.
She clawed at his face, his eyes. He wore a ski mask, and all she could see were three round holes and a sinister flash of teeth amid the blackness. She shrieked, but an elbow against her throat cut off all sound, all breath, as she fought and bucked beneath him.
He was strong, immovable. And terrifyingly calm as he pinned her arms one by one under his knees and reached for something in the pocket of his jacket. She expected a weapon--a knife or a gun--and she tried to heave him off. Panic seized her as his shadow shifted in the dimness. Above her frantic grunts she heard the tear of duct tape. And suddenly the idea of being silenced that way was more horrifying than even a blade.
With a fresh burst of adrenaline she wriggled her arm out from under his knee and flailed for any kind of weapon. She groped around the floor until her fingers closed around something smooth and slender—a pen, a chopstick, she didn’t know. She gripped it in her hand and jabbed at his face with all her might. He reared back with a howl.
Laney bucked hard and rolled out from under him as he clutched his face.
A scream erupted from deep inside her. She tripped to her feet and rocketed for the door.

Reed and Laney’s story is a gritty and intense one!

At the start of the book we learn of a murder that Reed is put on the case to investigate. I liked how the baseline of this story was pure and simple. The mysterious serial killer was intriguing but it didn’t draw away the focus from the main characters and how they handle the situation. The killer drew them together but their actions were what really sparked my interest. The murder investigation was the real focal point of the entire story.

I was thoroughly engaged and on the edge of my seat. This book had really strong and consistent writing with believable characters and emotions. These characters were not perfect. They made mistakes. They had raw feelings. It gets tiring to read about the same type of alpha hero tosser turned Prince Charming. Reed wasn’t that, and I mean it in the best way possible. He had flaws, but many more endearing qualities to outshine them.
One thing I really loved about him was the way he treated Laney. He was respectful and viewed her as an equal. The pair made a great team. Laney was incredible! She was fearless, courageous, and very outspoken. She was a refreshing take on the typical suspense heroine. 

With its twists and turns, Deep Dark is the perfect book to make your heart race!

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author LAURA GRIFFIN started her career in journalism before venturing into the world of romantic suspense. She is a two-time RITA Award winner (for the books Scorched and Whisper of Warning) as well as the recipient of the Daphne du Maurier Award (for Untraceable). Laura currently lives in Austin, where she is working on her next book.

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